Normal-ish: Proctors, ASO, choir

No buffoon bassoon

ProctorsIn the past month, I had several days that I considered normal-ish. Familiar, though with a twist.

Th, 12/9: I went to the Proctors Theatre in nearby Schenectady. I’ve been going there to see for years to see touring musicals. Often I’ve had season tickets for the Thursday matinee because it’s the least expensive option. Indeed, I made that choice way back in the spring of 2019 for the 2019-2020 run. I saw three shows. and then…

I don’t even remember when Summer: The Donna Summer Story was supposed to take place initially, but I think it was rescheduled at least twice because of COVID. FINALLY, I got to take the bus to the old vaudeville venue. First, I was asked for my vaccine card, which I had on my phone. Then I could pick up my ticket at the will call.

As for the show itself, there were actually three women playing the disco queen at various stages of her life. One also played Donna’s mother and another Donna’s daughter. Oddly enough, this was not confusing. And all of them were very good.

I wasn’t a huge disco fan. But as I wrote about her three years ago, I had a lot of respect for Donna Summer: her look and especially her voice.

On The Radio

But as this review in the Chicago Tribune noted of the tour: “It is a very rough book.” Yeah, that was it. The show “carelessly abandon[s] most of its scenes in mid-flow for self-serving monologues. The story veers “back and forth between the personal and the professional” in an uneasy manner. The reviewer thinks those “behind-the-music-with-the-guys-in-suits stuff… so rarely works in these kinds of shows.” I’ve seen some that do work – Beautiful, for one – but this was not one of them.

This I didn’t remember: “Summer, of course, upset a lot of her gay fans with a homophobic remark at a Cleveland concert, at the height of the AIDS crisis to boot.” The story monologue disowning her previous statement was astonishingly clunky.


Sa 12/11: Likewise, it was the first visit to the Albany Symphony Orchestra at the Palace Theatre, under the direction of David Alan Miller, since COVID. A church friend had tickets he could not use. Yes, proof of COVID vaccinations was needed.

The first piece was Don Juan by Richard Strauss. as the show notes suggest: Strauss “makes us see from the get-go the bravado of this libertine.”

The second and third pieces, one before the intermission and one after, were written by Christopher Rouse (1949-2019). The ASO, which Rouse visited frequently, was to record the compositions the following day.

From the composer’s notes about Heimdall’s Trumpet: his “blasts on his trumpet announce the onset of Ragnarok, the Norse equivalent of Armageddon.” He rightly notes “the title… refers properly to the finale… in a very short orchestral fortissimo outburst…” And it was so!  Eric Berlin was the fine soloist.

Rouse’s bassoon concerto, with the virtuoso Peter Kolkay was a lot more fun, with Kolkay sometimes fading out, yet the orchestra’s other bassoons filling in. It was not buffoonish, though. Comedy is difficult to explain.

Finally, excerpts from The Nutcracker, not just the suite but about a third of the whole ballet.


Su 12/12: Our choir has been rehearsing since October, with everyone with at least two shots. But the group, other than the section leaders, haven’t sung. That is until 11/27 when half the choir got to sing, masked. And no forte, because we’ve read that it is the volume of singing, or speaking, that has the greater chance to spread infection.

My half got to sing on 12/12. It was a little difficult because, being spread out, it was hard to hear the others in the bass section, let alone the other parts.

That said, it was GLORIOUS to be in the choir loft again. I’m not saying I got a little verklempt, but…

So normal-ish. Which is good enough for now.

Cheap Trick, February 7, 2020 ALB

Rick Nielsen, Robin Zander, Tom Petersson, Daxx Nielsen

Cheap TrickI won a pair of tickets to see Cheap Trick at the Palace Theatre in Albany on Friday, February 7. But I wasn’t sure I’d actually go. It wasn’t something my wife wanted to do. I would have given both tickets away, but my offer got no response on Facebook.

It was a strange week. Tuesday, I felt unwell and blew off Bible study, but went to a meeting. Wednesday, I was better, but still woozy. Thursday, the daughter woke up about 4 a.m. with stomach pain, and I tended to her, skipping choir.

By Thursday night, she felt much better. But the school has a policy that you can’t go in if you’ve, er regurgitated in the last 24 hours. She had the last bout, of several, at noon Thursday.

Friday, I fed her and helped her with her homework. She went to school the last period, at 2 pm, to take a unit test. She was even well enough to take a youth trip to Vermont. The question was the weather. They were originally going to leave at 5 but it ended up she was the first to arrive at the departure point at 6.

At 6:15, it’s too late for my church’s First Friday event. And one of the performing groups couldn’t make it. On the other hand, there’s a 7:18 bus (#138) a block from my house that could get me to the Palace by 7:45. I have dinner with my wife. She wants to watch recorded figure skating on TV that evening.

Should I Stay Or Should I Go

I hadn’t left the house in two days, except to shovel the walk and take out the garbage. It appears that I needed to see Cheap Trick. Thank you, CDTA. The seats at the Palace weren’t too bad, one for me and one for my coat. They are off to the left, but only about a third of the way back.

The house was about 2/3 full when the opening act, a Chicago-area band called Rookie played. The three-guitar/bass/keyboard/drum group played eight or nine songs. They were quite good, though the lead singer/guitarist who sang the majority of the songs was clearly the best vocalist. He did the finest harmonies when the drummer sang as well.

The setup between acts talks about 20 minutes, an the theater really starts filling out, with a couple now to my right. Cheap Trick takes the stage. Immediately, the folks nearest the stage stand, which has the obvious cascading effect.

They perform ​Just Got Back, Hello There, Way of the World, Come On Come On, Lookout and Elo Kiddies before I decide, “That’s enough!” I sit. And so do random other folks. And I can see lead singer Robin Zander in his white outfit between the heads as he sings Magical Mystery Tour, In Crowd, and Speak Now.

Three original plus a scion

Occasionally, I’d see guitarist Rick Nielsen wandering across stage. I only brief caught bassist Tom Petersson, and Daxx Nielsen (son of Rick), who replaced drummer Bun E. Carlos about a half decade ago. Ballad of TV Violence, Ain’t That a Shame, and Waitin’ for the Man. There was lots of swaying through The Flame.

Then they end with two of the songs I, and everyone wanted, I Want You to Want Me and Dream Police. I don’t know what time it was, so I headed for the exits. But I discovered it was only 10:15, so I watched the encore, California Man and Surrender, from the back. The latter featured two of the members of Rookie. The member at their promo table says Cheap Trick has done that the last three shows.

I walk across the street to the bus stop. About five minutes later, the obviously happy crowd came out. The #12 bus arrived at 10:35, and I was home by 11. I was happy, not just with the concert but with the spontaneous evening. A good night.

Dear diary, my short summer staycation

Albany Institute of History & Art
Albany Institute of History & Art

I’ve come to the conclusion that people dis blogging, even when they don’t read blogs, because they believe it’s just a bunch of personal entries, as though it were some sort of public diary. While, I’ve usually attempted to give you a much more diverse and eclectic record, every once in a while, I need a journal entry, if only for ME to keep track of my activities six or sixteen months from now.

July 23: After work, I met The Wife and The Daughter at Albany’s Washington Park at for a free Park Playhouse presentation of the musical Singin’ in the Rain. The family didn’t get there until close to 6 p.m. for a 7:30 performance, and that’s too late. We found probably the last seats in the amphitheater, in the last row, far to the right, with some obstruction from one of the light poles. This was the antepenultimate performance, and it had reviewed well.

That said, the performance of the musical was quite fine. Great singing and dancing, even though only the guy playing Donald (the Gene Kelly role in the movie) was an Equity union actor. And, as advertised, there was actual singing, in the controlled “rain.” BTW, in case of real rain, the show might be postponed or even canceled. My friend Susan, who plays the oboe in the orchestra, and who the Daughter and I happened across at intermission, said only one show was canceled, though a couple were delayed over the four-week run.

The problem is that, because the stage gets wet, and has to get mopped up during the break, there’s not much story left afterward; a small complaint.

July 24: I took a day off from work, and we headed for the Albany Institute of History and Art. The baseball exhibit was also on its antepenultimate day on display. While the info on the major league teams was interesting, I was most intrigued by the local history. It showed the Capital District from our now-defunct minor league Yankees showcasing future stars such as Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams to the Albany Senators playing an exhibition game against Babe Ruth to the 1880s team in Troy that was a precursor to the San Francisco Giants.

After lunch, we went to the New York State Museum. There was an exhibit of art from students from the 64 education campuses comprising the State University of New York. There was also a fine display of photos and tools of the Shaker communities, several of which were around the area back in the religious organization’s heyday.

July 25: The folks putting on Park Playhouse had also produced a two-day run of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, with child and teen actors, at Albany’s Palace Theatre. This is the iteration in which Cinderella was played at various times by Julie Andrews, Lesley Ann Warren, and Brandy. I love this show, and this version was quite good, especially the title actress and the girl playing the herald.

However, because it was for free, and was presumably kid-friendly, parents brought their infants and toddlers, who couldn’t be still, or QUIET, for a 55-minute presentation, so it was occasionally difficult to hear. Outdoors, the noise may have been more diffused. Indoors, in the 2800-seat theater, at least 2/3s full, it was amplified.

July 26: I’ve previously touted the amazing work that happens on the very small stage of the Mac-Haydn Theatre, in Chatham, 45 minutes from Albany, where the entrances and exits become part of the set. My love for West Side Story is even more well established. This combination did not disappoint, from the very athletic mixing between the Sharks and the Jets, to the fine use of space to show Maria’s balcony.

The Wife thought the guy playing Tony was too pretty, though I disagreed. The problem with theater in the round, though, is that it may take a few seconds to find the highlighted action, such as when Maria and Tony first meet, and Tony is, for us, briefly obscured by the crowd at the dance.

What particularly worked for me was the Somewhere dance. Often a ballet that stops the action, it was quite effective with, e.g., “Anybodies”, the “tomboy” Jet dancing with Bernardo, the now slain Shark leader. Hey, maybe there IS “a place for us.”

And to nail that down, as we found our way to our car, we saw the actors playing Tony and Bernardo get in their vehicle and drive away together.

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial